A recent survey found that one in ten Britons regret a pandemic purchase. The items people no longer want range from kitchen appliances to hot tubs and, sadly, even dogs.
The pandemic created feelings of anxiety as people felt uncertain about what was going on. Anxiety commonly fuels materialistic values that increase the likelihood that people will make purchases. Materialists tend to purchase goods based on their perceived status, so it is not surprising that many invested in expensive items during the pandemic, as they were spending less money on items like travel and dining out.
As we return to “normal” life, anxiety levels are coming down and people no longer find the items they bought desirable or useful. Our life priorities are changing, and with them, our material wants. Shoppers judge purchases based on the item’s ability to satisfy their needs. When items are no longer desirable and they wish to purchase something new (that they may not be able to afford), “buyer’s remorse” kicks in for the more expensive goods they bought earlier.
During the pandemic, many also turned to online shopping, by choice or necessity. This can also lead to higher levels of regret as consumers are not able to physically interact with the items they buy. When the package arrives on the doorstep, it may not be exactly what they wanted or expected, leaving people feeling let down.
Avoiding buyer’s remorse
We can’t change the past, but we can at least try to make better consumer decisions in the future. There are a few things you can do to reduce the likelihood of wishing you had never made a particular purchase:
1. Experiences over things
While buying new clothes or toys may be satisfying in the short term, paying for an experience – like going on holiday or going bowling – is less likely to lead to buyer’s remorse. This is because an item can continuously be directly compared to other items you own that may be cheaper or inferior in some way. An experience or activity is unique to you and harder to compare.
2. When in doubt, don’t buy
If you’re on the fence about buying something, it’s better to resist. Studies show that people are less likely to experience regret if they fail to buy something than they would if they bought it.
3. Enrich your life
Spend your money on items that are linked to personal development. When purchases are linked to aspects such as community, healthcare, arts, entertainment and education, people feel more satisfied with what they bought.
4. Stay away from sales
Impulse buying often leads to regret. It can be difficult to stop yourself when you have an urge to splurge, but there are precautions you can take. Stay away from sales and online promotion events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Before shopping, determine how much you can afford to spend and what you want to spend it on – make a list and stick to it.
5. Think of others first
Instead of focusing on yourself and your wants, think about purchasing things for others. Giving gifts can be satisfying for both the giver and the receiver.
With Christmas just around the corner, people are likely to spend more than they intend to on presents and food. It is a good time to reflect on what you can do to avoid the possibility of buyer’s remorse. The above tips should help you avoid purchasing unneeded items and have a more rewarding holiday shopping season.
Cathrine Jansson-Boyd does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.